Newspapers are for-profit enterprises. But they are more than that. Readers expect much of their newspapers. They expect the news to be covered with energy and thoroughness, particularly the local news. That’s just for starters. They also expect a newspaper to be a watchdog—to be a protector of the “little guy,” an advocate for truth and fairness not only in what we write, but in government and public affairs in general. In other words, if people are not being treated fairly; if they are being endangered, or discriminated against, or taken advantage of, they expect us to blow the whistle. That’s a newspaper’s unwritten contract with the community it serves. We newspaper editors frequently call it “the public trust.” And it’s a real thing that not only has a big impact on a newspaper’s brand but also on the community it serves.
David McCumber is an award-winning journalist who has worked for more than twenty years as a writer and editor at newspapers and magazines across the American West. He is the author of several books, including The Cowboy Way and Playing Off the Rail. He is currently the editor of the Montana Standard in Butte, and the regional editor for Lee Enterprises.